General Non-Fiction posted November 15, 2021

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A Family Thanksgiving with cornbread dressing.

Grandma Bessie & Thanksgiving

by Terry Broxson

Before I tell you about Thanksgiving and the cornbread dressing there are a few things you should know about Grandma Bessie.

She was born in 1901 and lived her whole life in Abilene, Texas. She died in 1989. She had three daughters. My mother was the middle girl. Her first husband, Grandpa Glide, was killed in an oil field accident in 1950.

Grandma Bessie supported herself from the small death pension from Glide and renting half of her duplex for about $65 a month, although it did increase some over the years. The duplex sagged everywhere, and truth be told so did the folks who rented there.

My family consisted of my father, mother, little brother, and me. We lived 145 miles west of Grandma Bessie, but we visited frequently. Sometime starting in the mid 1950s until 1979 Grandma Bessie had a boyfriend who she called Blue Eyes. His real nickname was Mutt, or maybe that was his real name, I never knew for sure. I called him Blue Eyes.

In June of 1979 Grandma Bessie married Blue Eyes. The whole family was there. I asked her, "Grandma, after being your boyfriend for twenty five years why are you marrying him now?" She said, "His wife died three months ago."

Food during this era, 1950s to mid 1960s, was all made from scratch. There were no premixed products, no microwaves. Merle Haggard said it best, "It was when a girl could cook and still would."

My mother once told me she was going to the store to get some ingredients for supper. I said, "But mommy, I don't like ingredients!" She explained that there were good ones and bad ones, and she was only going to get the good ones, and I would like them. Turns out she was right.

Now that you understand the back story, here comes the part about the Thanksgiving dressing. We usually went to Grandma Bessie's for Thanksgiving. The smells of wonderful home cooking filled every corner of that little duplex. Everyone loved it-well mostly.

Grandma Bessie always made cornbread dressing. She used yellow cornmeal. She insisted that it was the only way to make good dressing.

My mother had a different idea. She liked white cornmeal. Being kids and all, my brother and two cousins did not have a clue and didn't care. It was all good.

One year my mother brought the dressing and of course used her white cornmeal. But, Grandma Bessie said, "This just doesn't taste right!" My mother did not write to Dear Abby about this. She developed a plan.

The next year she invited all the Abilene folks to come to our house for Thanksgiving. Mother did most of the cooking. It was about half way through the meal that my mother asked, "Mother how do you like the dressing?"

Grandma Bessie said, "It is excellent!"

My mother beamed, "It's white cornmeal, used yellow food dye."

Absolute quiet at the table. Even my father who had too much wine at that point had nothing to say. Grandma Bessie didn't say anything the rest of the day. My mother's sisters were also unusually quiet.

Now us kids? We knew there was drama, but we didn't care. There were a lot more Thanksgivings with Grandma Bessie (of course not at our house). Cornbread dressing was never mentioned again. We had it every year...always yellow.

By the way, my other Grandmother was Minnie, but she is a different story.

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